Umbro is one of the few British sportswear brands left standing,” says chief executive and president Jim Allaker. Certainly, its famous double diamond logo has come to dominate the world of football, with a history steeped in tailoring and Mancunian heritage.
Umbro was created by brothers Harold and Wallace Humphreys, who founded Humphreys Brothers, a small sportswear firm in Wilmslow, Cheshire, on the fringes of Manchester, in 1924.
Less than 10 years later, Umbro’s first major football kit was made for Man-chester City, a kit the team won the FA Cup in. In 1952 the company began to manufacture the England football strip and in 1958 Brazil won the World Cup wearing Umbro shirts. The next three World Cup winners also sported Umbro, allowing it to truly stake its claim on the global sportswear stage.
Allaker says it is Umbro’s “obsession with football and craftsmanship - the company’s DNA” that led US sportswear giant Nike to snap it up in 2007. “But the last thing I want is for Umbro to be Nike; Nike wouldn’t want it either,” he adds.
He says Manchester has its own distinct fashion scene, in which Umbro takes centre stage. “I can’t describe it but it’s more tribal here. Bands like Oasis and Doves connect with us. Nike would never launch a product with Kasabian, for example.”
The Kasabian tie-up saw Umbro launch this summer’s England away shirt at a concert in Paris, with Kasabian frontman Tom Meighan unveiling the shirt to an unsuspecting French audience. “The audience started booing them,” Allaker laughs. “But we wanted to launch the shirt in front of rivals.”
Umbro has been raiding its archive in time for the World Cup, with the reworked Ramsey jacket a standout piece. Inspired by England’s 1966 World Cup-winning manager Sir Alf Ramsey, the jacket was debuted by singer Robbie Williams in March.
“The pre-orders have been fantastic,” says Allaker, who is confident about Manchester’s ability to continue to drive UK fashion. “There’s a confidence here; people are still cocky here.” Red or blue? Neither - Sunderland.
Jim Allaker is chief executive and president of sportswear brand Umbro